Conjugating Selves: Thinking-Making Difference, Whiteness, and Relational Orthographies in Higher Learning

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Conjugating Selves: Thinking-Making Difference, Whiteness, and Relational Orthographies in Higher Learning

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


There has been little work on entangled intra-actions, or the simultaneous constitution of subjectivities and performances, between these discursive and material understandings of racial difference in higher learning. As a result, research and practice endorse a binary narrative either privileging discursive constructivism (looking to what discourses signify as basis for critique) or materialism (looking to how discourses emerge and work). Without adequate analysis of the content that inheres relational/pedagogical events that broach racial difference, including bodies, spaces, orientations, discourses, and objects, we foreclose opportunities to think carefully of the complex ethics and politics of living within the uneven distributions of precarious life. My project addresses this gap by analyzing the intra-actions of varied becomings (myself and with my students) around diversity work in the present conjuncture of political emergency. Through a rhizomatic (auto) ethnographic and philosophical bricolage with examination of the contexts, processes, and activities of doing diversity work in institutional or disciplinary learning spaces, I argue that many engagements with difference actually do not make a difference, regularly invoking aesthetic distancing (race and racism as happening out there) and reifying sentimental politics and hermeneutical violence. Ultimately, my transdisciplinary research shows that despite good intentions of pursuing diversity and social justice, when engagements with difference are inadvertently aligned with structures that maintain investments in whiteness and the racial status quo, they continue, if not proliferate, the racial inequities already present. My dissertation consists of three papers to (1) read diversity “conjuncturally;” (2) draw attention to the intra-actions in an education course that produce a white liberalist intimate public; and (3) offer a speculative treatise on the potentialities of decolonial mood work (merging scholarship from decolonial thought and feminist new materialisms) to rethink relationality that is unmoored from white subjection in higher education and beyond. I also offer a creative narrative/parable interlude of a teacher candidate who embodies “Beckyism, ”or particular white heterofeminine citizen-subject (can also be used to describe to the “Karen” phenomenon). Here, I provide a stylized fanfiction account that describes the everyday emotional registers and responses of a composite Becky throughout her course of study. Through “progressive” commitments such as equality, and social justice; and sentimental responses to historical atrocities and current social events, these (conditional) protestations made by Becky serve as a hedonistic mechanism for image management that hinges on the exploitation and social death of people of color.



University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2021. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Michael Goh. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 153 pages.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Jimenez, Justin. (2021). Conjugating Selves: Thinking-Making Difference, Whiteness, and Relational Orthographies in Higher Learning. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.